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May 26, 2010

Greg Sheridan was right! About Julie Bishop that is…

Julie Bishop stuffed up Treasury, and now she's stuffed up Foreign Affairs. Luckily Tony Abbott is on the ball in that portfolio...

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

What’s the point of Julie Bishop’s political existence?


Scroll back 15 months, to February last year, when she gracefully exited the shadow Treasurership under pressure from some less-than-graceful male colleagues. Admittedly, she’d made a hash of the position, and in record time, but she was still deputy leader, so she needed a senior portfolio.  So she was hidden in Foreign Affairs, where usually only Greg Sheridan actually notices if you stuff up.

In fact the principle task of a Coalition foreign affairs spokesperson, either in Government or Opposition, is simple: keep The Australian happy, which means pretty much keeping Greg Sheridan and Paul Kelly happy.

Problem was, she did stuff up, and Greg Sheridan noticed. In August, in the sort of language Sheridan usually reserved for the limp-wristed shillyshalling foreign policy Leftariat, he excoriated her over the Opposition’s handling of the Stern Hu matter, saying of the Coalition “it has probably for the moment definitively forfeited the right to be taken seriously as an alternative government.”

In case you were left wondering, Sheridan emphasised the point, calling Bishop’s response “internally contradictory, unprincipled, amoral beyond even the exigencies of parliamentary hypocrisy and profoundly stupid. Bishop was a dud shadow treasurer and is now a dud foreign affairs spokeswoman.”

Bishop had followed first Andrew Robb, and then Helen Coonan, in the role. Robb was the only frontbencher to lay a glove on Rudd early in the term, but then was moved to climate change by Malcolm Turnbull. Coonan barely had time to get her feet under the desk before she was moved to make way for Bishop.

Now not merely has Bishop managed to reveal confidential information about national security matters, she’s made herself look a prize goose. Her defence is that she didn’t understand the question.The exchange went:

Bishop: “It would be naive to think that Israel was the only country in the world that has used forged passports, including Australian passports, for security operations.”

Tim Lester: “What – we do?”

Bishop: “Yes.”

Quite what part of “What – we do?” isn’t clear is something of a mystery.

A defence along the lines of “I was a prize dill overplaying my hand as always and I’ll try to exercise better judgement in the future” might at least have earned her some Abbott-style “hey at least I admit I lie under pressure” points.

It was a red-letter day for the Coalition on foreign policy because Tony Abbott addressed the Asialink National Forum here in Canberra yesterday, along with the Prime Minister. Asialink is a Melbourne-based centre for promoting Asian engagement.

While Rudd offered his usual foreign policy boilerplate, Abbott chose to use the forum to tear into Labor, assailing Paul Keating’s focus on Asia, celebrating John Howard’s foreign policy skills, and attacking Rudd over people smuggling, refusing to sell uranium to India and Rudd’s Asia Pacific Community proposal. Abbott accused Rudd of “unilaterally-conceived utopian visions”, “giving up” on APEC, and blamed him for failing to reverse the trend of fewer Australian schoolchildren learning a second language.

It’s not the first time Abbott has felt the need to launch partisan attacks over foreign policy. He used President Yudhoyono’s address to Federal Parliament in March to talk about the increase in people smuggling and damn with faint praise Rudd’s engagement with Indonesia “rather than nebulous new communities.”

It doesn’t matter a great deal in the scheme of things, really, but it’s a subtle indicator both of Tony Abbott’s view of foreign policy and what sort of foreign policy focus he’d have if he ever became Prime Minister.

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84 thoughts on “Greg Sheridan was right! About Julie Bishop that is…

  1. Mr Denmore

    I agree it’s hard to see what Julie Bishop brings to the Liberal Party. I think someone might have “nailed it” (so to speak) a couple of weeks ago when they observed that her stiched-up, well-coiffed, death-stare primness might appeal to a certain sort of Liberal Party male brought up in boarding school and hankering for the firm hand of a schoolmarm.

    She really appears to have no political antennae or thoughts of her own. She just repeats the most rabid, lunatic and paranoid ravings that she picks up from the backroom, self-abusing, mummy-addicted spotty Young Liberal nutters who form the party’s “intellectual” wing these days.

  2. Michael


    You clearly have not been to an ALP meeting lately.

    They make the Greens seem sane

  3. Socratease

    @BK: “What’s the point of Julie Bishop’s political existence?”

    In an Abbot government, Julie Bishop will be positioned atop a very tall tower on Christmas Island, seeking out suspicious looking boats and incinerating them with one long stare.

    (and Bernard, in the 4th para you might like to make it read “principal task”)

  4. Sausage Maker

    I thought it was the job of all Australian politicians to make the editors and journos over at the Oz happy? Greg Sheridan isn’t the only hack at News Ltd that has to send a report card to Mr. Murdoch showing that he/she has helped expand his/her master’s empire.

  5. David Sanderson

    Michael, can anyone top you for hysterical nonsense? When it comes to the unhinged and the rabid you exceed even Jamesk – and that’s not easy to do.

  6. beachcomber

    Julie Bishop highlights the problem the Coalition has with women. They see them as the Handbags of politics: designed to complement the outfit rather than attract too much attention to themselves.

    She’s been handbag to 3 leaders, and stuffed up in a series of shadow portfolios.

    She is hopeless as an MP, and if she was a man she would have been dumped ages ago.

    With Gillard shining they believe they still need a woman Deputy. Julie Bishop remains because the alternatives are bizarre: the only one with any profile is Bronwyn Bishop.

  7. Michael


    I’ll take that as a compliment [Moderator: This comment has been edited. Play nice kids.]

  8. David Sanderson

    The “hairy crotched feminists” is particularly surreal. It is likely that Queen Victoria, Margaret Thatcher and even (gasp) Julie Bishop has, like almost every other woman in the world, a “hairy crotch”. According to our resident misogynist Michael they must all be a blight upon the world.

    What a ridiculous little man

  9. engano

    Probably the most disturbing thing about Julie Bishop’s reaction to the expulsion of the Mossad agent is the feeling that Australian politicians – like those of other English-speaking first world countries – should bow down to Israel at every opportunity, no matter the circumstances. It is for this reason I admired Helen Clark, she was the only leader in any of those countries who had the balls to stand up to Tel Aviv. Back in 2004 she went ballistic when 2 Mossad agents tried to illegally obtain Kiwi passports. The Israel reaction? A rumoured Mossad plot to assassinate her.

    Also, the problem with Israel today is that any criticism is seen as being anti-Jewish or anti-Sematic. Utter rubbish. For too long Israel has used the emotion surrounding the Holocaust as an excuse to do what it likes. It is an insult to every Jew who was killed by the Nazis.

    As for Bishop, it is a sad state of affairs that she could potentially be representing Australia on the world stage inside the next 12 months. Should that happen, Hilary Clinton will eat her for breakfast.

  10. Phil

    I now understand why Bishop is the deputy, she’s there to make the leader look good. In Abbott’s case an impossibility.

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